Albion once again on outside looking in

07:25 AM 08 Jun 2012 NZST
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James Kennedy
James Kennedy

For the third straight start at Cal Expo, Albion will be leaving from the assigned No. 10 post position in Saturday night's (June 9) main harness racing event with Luke Plano in his usual position in the sulky. A winner of 11 of his 19 starts this season, the Matias Ruiz-trained pacer had no trouble with the demanding slot on May 18, as he ducked early and then brushed to the lead at the half en route to a two-length score.

In last week’s assignment, however, he found himself third over on the cover train going into the final bend. While he put in a game finish for Plano, he came up a nose short as Haggin Oaks responded when the question was asked and posted the upset.

“The biggest disadvantage with having the 10 hole is if you try for the lead, and you have to make your decision right at the start, there’s no in-between,” Luke explained. “To be honest, with a horse like Albion it’s not as big a deal because I can do anything I want with him and it’s not like there’s nine horses inside of us.

“The race two back, they were mixing it up pretty good in the early part and I just let him sit until they slowed up. When I brushed him to the lead, he was strong and won nicely.”

Sent off at 60 cents on the dollar for last week’s tour, the race didn’t set up quite as well.

“This time we were third over and it wasn’t the greatest cover,” Plano related. “One And Only wasn’t quite keeping up in front of us, so I had to move around him a little earlier and it certainly made the difference.

“Take nothing away from Haggin Oaks, though, she deserves plenty of credit. I thought we had her measured the length of the stretch and she just dug in and wouldn’t let my horse get by.”

It will be interesting if history can repeat itself this time around with Haggin Oaks moving out to the five slot and Albion back in No Man’s Land.

*********** Saturday’s action will include the simulcast of two North America Cup Pace eliminations from Mohawk Raceway. On Saturday, June 16, Cal Expo will be simulcasting the entire North America Cup program from Mohawk, highlighted by the $1.5 million fixture for 3-year-old pacers.

ALBION, HAGGIN OAKS GET A REMATCH SATURDAY AT CAL EXPO

Albion, who has been the dominant player at the head of the class this season; and Haggin Oaks, the classy mare who hung a nose decision on him last week to snap his winning streak, are the marquee players in Saturday night’s (June 9) $6,800 Winners-Over Pace at Cal Expo.

Racing-secretary Fred Kuebler has changed things around a bit as far as post position assignments are concerned. While last week saw Haggin Oaks doing her work from the cozy one-hole while Albion had the testing No. 10 post, this match-up will find mare moving to the 5-slot while Albion will once again go postward from the extreme outside.

Albion is a 6-year-old son of The Panderosa who has clicked in 11 of his 19 trips to the post this season with $112,000 in the bank and a 1:51.1 standard that was established last season. He carries the banner of Dan Tullio, James Mascola and trainer Matias Ruiz with Luke Plano will be in his usual place in the sulky.

The dark-hued performer rattled off four straight wins at the head of the class between April 21 and May 18, on each occasion dominating his rivals, including the last of those tallies which found him leaving from that testing No. 10 slot.

Albion was once again assigned the extreme outside for his most recent tour and was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite. He put in a powerful late move, but ended up on the wrong end of a nose photo with Haggin Oaks and saw his winning skein snapped.

Haggin Oaks is a homebred, multiple stakes-winning Hi Ho Silverheels mare who goes about her business for Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Jerry Cimini with James Kennedy doing the driving and training. She recently went over the $100,000 earnings plateau and set her 1:53.2 mark over the Cal Expo layout last year.

Sent off at nearly 7-1 last week, Kennedy used Haggin Oaks early to keep position from the pole. When the question was asked in the stretch, she had the needed response and gamely prevailed to pick up her fifth snapshot of the 2012 season. Looking for an upset are Cowboy Hanover, Tax Relief, One And Only and Split Ticket.

Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (June 8) & Saturday (June 9) at 6:00 p.m. (PST). On every live card, Cal Expo offers free parking & free admission after 4:30 p.m. On Friday, Cal Expo offers Happy Hour from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on which Beer; Well Drinks & Wine are offered at $4 each, while a Burger with fries is offered at $5.

Cal Expo currently offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s. Additionally, all Late Pick 4’s now come with an increased $20,000-guaranteed gross pool. Also, the Friday Late Pick 4 will offer a 0% takeout on all winning wagers made on track or at Twinspires.com, while the Saturday Late Pick 4 will be broadcast on TVG.

by Mark RATZKY

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